Sessions: Police consent decrees can 'reduce morale'

Sessions: Police consent decrees can 'reduce morale'
© Greg Nash

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Laura Ingraham: Migrant child detention centers 'essentially summer camps' Senate chaplain offers prayer 'as children are being separated from their parents' MORE raised concerns Thursday that agreements between the federal government and local police departments aimed at reform can, in some cases, "reduce morale."

Sessions addressed the topic during an appearance on the "The Howie Carr Show" radio program according to audio published Friday by CNN's "K-File." Sessions and Carr spoke about consent decrees, the legally binding agreements that stem from a Justice Department investigation into improper practices in local police forces. 

The Obama administration reached consent decrees with 14 police departments, often after investigations into law enforcement abuse or discrimination. 

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"I do share your concern that these investigations and consent decrees can turn bad. They can reduce morale of the police officers, they can push back against being out on the street in a proactive way," Sessions said.

Sessions also lauded New York's adoption of the "broken window" theory of policing, the theory adopted during Mayor Rudy Giuliani's tenure that argues that a failure to prevent small crimes creates a culture of lawlessness that could lead to much larger crimes.

And he noted that many of the cities where consent decrees are negotiated already have significant crime rates, which raises the stakes for implementing reforms that Sessions believes could prevent law enforcement from helping to make communities safer. 

"Every place these decrees, as you've mentioned, some of these investigations have gone forward, we've seen too often big crime increases. Murder doubling and things of that nature," Sessions said.

"We've got to be careful and protect people's civil rights. We can't have police officers abusing their power, we will not have that. But there are lawful, approved, constitutional policies that places, New York, the murder rate is well below a lot of these other cities that aren't following these tactics." 

Sessions has taken aim at consent decrees before, arguing that the recent agreement in Baltimore could threaten the city's safety and ordering a review of all active consent decrees. Baltimore has seen a significant uptick in crime since the controversial death of Freddie Gray in police custody — homicides rose 78 percent and shootings doubled, according to The Wall Street Journal. So far in 2017, homicides are up 42 percent from this point in 2016.